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Cumorah

The north end of the hill Cumorah, near Palmyra, New York, as it appeared c. 1900. More than thirty years after the final Nephite battle in A.D. 385, Moroni deposited the gold plates on the west side of this hill not far from the top. In 1827, the angel Moroni here entrusted those Book of Mormon plates to Joseph Smith, who translated them into English. The hill is a drumlin, a long hill with steep sides and a sloping end formed under an advancing continental ice sheet. Courtesy Rare Books and Manuscripts, Brigham Young University.

by David A. Palmer

Cumorah in the Book of Mormon refers to a hill and surrounding area where the final battle between the Nephites and Lamanites took place, resulting in the annihilation of the Nephite people (see Book of Mormon Peoples). Sensing the impending destruction of his people, Mormon records that he concealed the plates of Nephi1 and all the other records entrusted to him in a hill called Cumorah to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Lamanites (see Book of Mormon Plates and Records). He delivered his own abridgment of these records, called the plates of Mormon, and the small plates of Nephi, which he placed with them, to his son Moroni 2 (W of M 1:5; Morm. 6:6), who continued writing on them before burying them in an unmentioned site more than thirty-six years later (Moro. 10:1-2).

The Book of Mormon mentions a number of separate records that would have been part of Mormon's final record repository in the hill Cumorah. Though the contents of these can be known to us only to the extent that they are summarized or mentioned in the Book of Mormon, Latter-day Saints expect them someday to become available. Alma 2 prophesied to his son Helaman that the brass plates of Laban (the Nephites' version of the Old Testament) would be "kept and preserved by the hand of the Lord until they should go forth unto every nation" (Alma 37:4; cf. 1 Ne. 5:17-19). He further explained that "all the plates" containing scripture are the "small and simple" means by which "great things are brought to pass" and by which the Lord will "show forth his power…unto future generations" (Alma 37:5-6, 19).

Cumorah had also been the site of the destruction of the jaredites roughly 900 years earlier. Moroni states in the book of Ether that the Jaredites gathered for battle near "the hill Ramah," the same hill where his father, Mormon, hid up "the records unto the Lord, which were sacred" (Ether 15:11). It was near the first landing site of the people of Mulek (Alma 22:30), just north of the land Bountiful and a narrow neck of land (Alma 22:32).

The more common reference to Cumorah among Latter-day Saints is to the hill near present-day Palmyra and Manchester, New York, where the plates from which the Prophet Joseph Smith translated the Book of Mormon were found. During the night of September 21, 1823, Moroni 2 appeared to Joseph Smith as an angel sent from God to show him where these plates were deposited (JS—H 1:29-47). (See Visitations of Moroni)

In 1928 the Church purchased the western New York hill and in 1935 erected a monument recognizing the visit of the angel Moroni (see Angel Moroni Statue). A visitors center was later built at the base of the hill. Each summer since 1937, the Church has staged the Cumorah Pageant at this site. Entitled America's Witness for Christ, it depicts important events from Book of Mormon history. This annual pageant has reinforced the common assumption that Moroni buried the plates of Mormon in the same hill where his father had buried the other plates, thus equating this New York hill with the Book of Mormon Cumorah. Because the New York site does not readily fit the Book of Mormon description of Book of Mormon geography, some Latter-day Saints have looked for other possible explanations and locations, including Mesoamerica. Although some have identified possible sites that may seem to fit better (Palmer), there are no conclusive connections between the Book of Mormon text and any specific site that has been suggested.

(See Basic Beliefs home page; The Gospel of Jesus Christ home page; Restoration of the Gospel home page)

Bibliography

Clark, John. "A Key for Evaluating Nephite Geographies." Review of Books on the Book of Mormon 1 (1989):20-70.

Palmer, David A. In Search of Cumorah: New Evidences for the Book of Mormon from Ancient Mexico. Bountiful, Utah, 1981.

Sorenson, John L. "Digging into the Book of Mormon: Part One." Ensign 14 (1984):26-37.

Encyclopedia of Mormonism, Vol. 1, Cumorah

Copyright 1992 by Macmillan Publishing Company

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